Monday 26 October 2020

This Is How It Was (1)

 House of Commons Library Explains

The Library produces summary briefing papers on a whole range of topics to provide the Honourable Members with the background they may need for discussion and debates within and associated with the House of Commons.

It is useful to remind ourselves what happened in 1985 (White Paper) and 1986 (Legislation).

Helpfully (?), fbb has done his usual simplification and expurgation of a page of verbiage.

The Act abolished road service licensing in Great Britain (except in London) from October 1986. It replaced the licensing system with a system of registration and removed the duties of local authorities to co-ordinate public passenger transport in their area. Thus, a bus company could register any service that it chose to operate on a commercial, i.e. unsupported, basis.

The local authority could invite tenders for additional routes or journeys if it considered social needs were not met by the commercial services and on condition that it went out to open tender. 

Once the Act was implemented, any licensed bus operator merely needed to register its intention to set up a service with the traffic commissioner responsible for the area, giving at least 42 days' notice.

Individual bus operators were responsible for the timetable and the introduction of new services depended on the operator's opinion of the demand for it and its commercial viability. There was no requirement in the 1985 Act or its consequent regulations for the commercial bus operator to consult before making changes to the timetable and the position of bus stops. The criteria for registration did not include any reference to public demand or to existing services and objections could no longer be made by other operators or local authorities.

Although there have been a few detailed tweaks, this is how things still work today over thirty years later. One practical change has been not in legislation, but with finance. Because of Government reduction of grants to Local Authorities, many have decided to abandon the funding of non-commercial services as the legislation said that they could pay, but had no obligation to do so.

During the early days of the "free-for-all" fbb was working up to seven days a week running a very busy residential youth holiday centre for the Crusaders bible class organisation. There was little opportunity to explore.

So the old man has appreciated some nostalgia from Northampton, via Alan and a series of slim volumes by United Counties expert, Roger Warwick.
Before 1986 buses in Northampton were very simple. The Borough was served by Northampton Corporation Transport Department with mainly Daimler double decks in a gorgeous livery of crimson.
Country areas were served, mostly by United Counties.
York Brothers of Cogenhoe and Wesleys of Newport Pagnell operated a reasonable service, joined by a number of "market day" routes from village companies. Midland Red crept in, almost in secret, with their X96 to Shrewsbury ...
... which terminated on the fringes of the town centre at Mayorhold, ironically just round the corner from the present bus station.
The "square" has gone, but its name remains preserved as a multi-storey car park.
Back in the dinosaur-roaming mists of antiquity, fbb's granny rode the X96 to Shrewsbury and continued on to Wrexham (by which route she never revealed!) to spend a few days with her sister Win. granny did survive but never undertook the trip again.

to be continued ...

Hulleys X57 News
Yesterday, Hulleys new courageous service running two hourly from Sheffield via the Snake Pass to Manchester started.Today it is joined by the two hourly X56 from Glossop tp Manchester. The placing of  both Manchester and Sheffield in Tier 3 of the Covid restrictions makes the servce even more courageous.

Please note that most Flixbus services in the UK have been cancelled and the electric bus between Dundee and Edinburgh is struggling through its early days. It is very much NOT a good time to start a speculative bus service!

The publicity at Sheffield Interchange doesn't help. Although Hulleys have displayed at least one attractive poster ...
... the situation at the departure stand was appalling. Who is in charge of these things? South Yotkshire PTE, of course.

The neighbouring stand shows what luxury the PTE normally provides ...
... including a reminder of how the 24 hour clock works - over half a century since it became "standard" (well, mostly) fgfor bus and rail travel in the UK. You get no map, just a line diagram (often incomplete) for each service ...
... and, of course, no timetable just a jumbled list of departures in time order.
But this is what greeted potential passengers for the X57 on its dedicated stand when they arrived yesterday.
Just a mess. Part of the mess MIGHT have been about the X57, but it was well obscured by the frame if the frame.

Who Would Be A Bus Driver?
GoAhead Southern Vectis route 8 serves the delightful village of Seaview, home to our senior (actually our only ... ) Isle of Wight correspondent and, some 7 years ago, home of fbb. The bus runs down Steyne Road, turns right into Church Street, then right again into Old Seaview Lane before turning left into Solent View Road, unnamed on the map above but by the D of OLD.

But last week Old Seaview Lane was being dug up or resurfaced or both. So buses ran round the block (tight!) at the Church, back up Steyne Road and then left into Old Seaview Lane.and immediately right into Solent View Road.

Here is a view of the junction from the bottom of Solent View Road ...
... travelling UP Steyne Road from the village centre ...
... and travelling DOWN Steyne Road.
Sadly, most modern buses do not bend in the middle so ...

Here is attempt No 1.
FAILED - as did attempt No 2.

Here is attempt No 3.
SUCCESS - just! Give that man a chocolate peanut.

Correspondent Alan twittered that he sometimes found it "tricky" to make a similar turn with his Mini. Mayhap he doth jest, but we get the point!

 Next How It Was blog : Tuesday 27th October 


  1. Granny's journey from Northampton to Wrexham must have been quite an adventure. Had she travelled 50 years ago in 1970 her journey by X96 would have begun in Derngate Bus Station (by then the Northampton terminus for the service, rather than the Mayorhold), and she would have reached Shrewsbury 5 hours and 12 minutes later, at 1412. This departure operated seven days a week and was a Rugby garage duty. Beyond Shrewsbury her journey would have got more complex as I don't think there's ever been a through bus from Shrewsbury to Wrexham. Most likely she would have travelled via Oswestry, using the service run by Vaggs of Knockin Heath, and changed there. An alternative would have been to use the joint Midland Red/Salopia Saloon Coaches service from Shrewsbury to Whitchurch and change there. Definitely a full day's travelling and not for the fainthearted. Getting the necessary information on the options beyond Shrewsbury would have been quite a challenge in those days, especially where local independent operators were involved.

    1. In 1970 Granny could have changed in Birmingham to Midland Red's Llandudno service leaving at 1430, which ran daily via Wrexham (arr 1755). Alternatively, she could have changed to the same service at Shrewsbury (dep 1631).

    2. I had assumed she wanted to avoid pre-booking, and maybe Midland Red's 'Day Anywhere' ticket was an incentive to try making the journey by service bus. This would have taken her from Northampton to Shrewsbury, or even as far as Whitchurch.

      In 1970 another coach option was the marathon Harwich - Bangor service operated jointly by Midland Red and Premier Travel. This called at both Northampton (1244) and Wrexham (1824), so giving a through journey via a somewhat obscure route which included traversing Birmingham's suburbs but avoiding the city centre. This ran only on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer period, leaving both Bangor and Harwich at 0730 and reaching the other terminus at 2111. Precision timing!

  2. Andrew Kleissner26 October 2020 at 12:43

    Unless it was a matter of cost, I wonder why she didn't go by train? Admittedly things may have been different in those days, but today she could have done it with just one change, at New Street.